Video: Vigil for Theresa Parker
By Chloe Morrison
ROCK SPRING, Ga. -- Family and friends of missing Walker County 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker want to keep the investigation in the public eye, but a new prosecutor has told law enforcement authorities not to discuss the case with the media.
On Thursday night almost 100 people gathered at a candlelight vigil for Mrs. Parker, an observance that family members said they organized to keep the case from going cold. Mrs. Parker has been missing since March 21.
Earlier in the day, Rome Judicial Circuit District Attorney Leigh Patterson confirmed she is taking over the case and has instructed authorities not to discuss it.
"I don't comment on pending cases," Ms. Patterson said. "I'm not going to try my case in the media."
Originally, Lookout Mountain Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin was assigned to the case, but Mr. Franklin said he and his co-workers have known "person of interest" Sam Parker "for years."
Because he knows Mr. Parker -- the missing woman's estranged husband and until recently a sergeant in the LaFayette Police Department -- Mr. Franklin removed himself to avoid any conflict of interest. The change in prosecutors is not a result of new evidence in the case, he said.
"Basically, in situations where our office is close to a potential suspect, we bow out so there is not an appearance of impropriety," Mr. Franklin said.
Despite silence from authorities, Mrs. Parker's brother-in-law, Jonathan Wilson, said it is important to "keep the idea of bringing her home" in the forefront of people's minds.
Family members, friends and some people who didn't know Mrs. Parker attended the Thursday vigil. Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" played as visitors arrived, and children played on a swing set near the vigil site as their parents mourned. Christina Hall and Hilda Wilson, Mrs. Parker's sisters, linked arms as Mrs. Hall spoke about her sister.
"I miss (Theresa's) smiling face and the comfort I felt from just being with her," Mrs. Hall said. "I miss her calling me every day just to make sure everyone was OK and doing fine. Our lives have been so empty these past five weeks without her."
Mrs. Hall said the family "knows something tragic has happened, because Theresa would not just disappear and leave us to hurt so bad without her."
In addition to vigils and the ribbons that line some Walker County roads in honor of Mrs. Parker, the family has started a reward fund. Donations from the public can be made at any LaFayette Bank branch and will be added to Gov. Sonny Perdue's $1,000 reward in the case. Mr. Wilson has added $1,000 of his own money to the fund, as well.
"We've got all these people working together to bring her home, and if we let it die down and everybody forgets about it, it's going to be just us out here trying to bring her home," he said.
Friends and co-workers said Mrs. Parker deserves to be found and the family deserves closure. Mr. Wilson said he will dedicate his life to finding his sister-in-law.
"If I die, that is the only thing that is going to stop me," he said. "(I'll keep looking) until she comes home or until the day I die."
E-mail Chloe Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org